Fog brings chaos to airport
An “unseasonal and untimely” fog wreaked havoc at Delhi airport on Sunday morning, delaying more than 60 flights. The chaos spiralled into the rest of the day, and by late evening, four fights had been cancelled and 14 diverted. Frustrated, harassed passengers crowded the domestic terminal, waiting endlessly for their flights. Aircraft hovered overhead for up to an hour each, waiting to land. The airlines, airport authorities and ATC were, as usual, not prepared to handle the situation.
Only one runway was operational — the other is not CAT III B (instrument landing system that allows planes to land and take off in poor visibility) compliant. “We use only runway 28/10 when there is low visibility... It is CAT compliant. But since airlines do not train their pilots on the CAT III system, even the runway that was operational was not used optimally,” said an airport official.
During the four hours when visibility was poorest on Sunday, only 44 flights operated with CAT IIIB. Forty-six others could not, because their pilots were not trained. Evidence was overwhelming that airlines have not been complying with the orders of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), requiring them to position a minimum strength of CAT III Instrument Landing System (ILS)-trained pilots to operate flights in low visibility conditions. Airlines have been arguing that training pilots is costly, and looking at the attrition rate in the industry, they cannot afford it.
The sufferers are, of course, the paying public. “The authorities are not prepared to handle even a single day of fog. I wonder what they will do if a situation like this persists for a few days,” said Amrita Singh, who was to board a flight to Kolkata early on Sunday morning.
“There was no information from the airline, no text message, nothing. The airport lounge was unbelievably crowded. The airport staff was of no help. Having handled so many foggy days, these people should have by now devised some sort of system to avoid chaos,” she added. Said an airport official: “Runway visibility dropped to 100 m at one point. The situation was crazy, and the backlog continued till late in the evening. Even evening flights were delayed by more than three hours.”